Leading U.S. corporations have been tiptoeing around the issue of anti-mask hysteria all throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and now it looks like Ford has had enough. To kick off the New Year, the company has launched #FinishStrong, a high profile, hard-hitting ad campaign that celebrates the everyday heroism of wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of a lethal virus. Now, was that so hard?
Other brands have featured mask-wearing actors in their advertising, but Ford raised the bar on public health messaging by creating a powerful 30-second video that focuses all attention on face masks and the people who wear them, not on its brand.
“We’re in this together and Ford’s goal since the pandemic started has been to try to help save lives,” explained the company’s president of Americas and International Markets Group, Kumar Galhotra, in a press statement.
“While many are weary from the challenges 2020 has thrown at us, now is the time for us to pull together, protect each other and finish strong until COVID-19 vaccines arrive more broadly. Lives are on the line.”
The ad stays on an upbeat theme throughout. It portrays masks in the context of ordinary people taking care of others, whether it’s bringing a 12-pack of toilet paper home to the family or saving lives in a hospital.
By omission, those images are a ringing clap-back at elected officials - on up to President Trump himself - and other public figures who have failed to wear face masks, fomented confusion over face masks, radicalized members of the public to protest against mask regulations, and fostered an environment of violence against those who advocate for face masks, including frontline retail and health care workers.
To raise the positivity note of #FinishStrong even higher, the ad concludes with images that portray the unmasked, post-COVID return to normal community life, whether it’s dancing in the street, packing into an outdoor concert, winning a football game, getting married, riding 1,500 pounds of rodeo bull or simply exchanging a full body hug with a loved one.
As for the cold, hard statistics about the lethal consequences of anti-maskers, Ford leaves that for the backstory.
In a press release announcing the new campaign, Ford emphasized that face masks are effective tools that prevent the spread of COVID-19. Conversely, when people stubbornly refuse to wear masks, they needlessly endanger themselves and others.
“If more Americans embraced COVID mitigation protocols, such as wearing masks, 50,000 or more lives could be saved between now and the end of March when vaccines are more readily available, according to officials at the IHME, University of Washington’s School of Medicine,” Ford explained.
Referencing the milestone of “50,000 or more” is most likely not an accident. It is within range of the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died over a period of 19 years during the Vietnam War, a conflict widely regarded as a pointless waste of human life and a dark stain in U.S. history.
As Ford points out, the #FinishStrong campaign is just one element on a broader, collaborative COVID-19 commitment by the company that includes manufacturing and donating millions of face masks, and manufacturing millions of other medical items including face shields, isolation gowns, ventilators and respirators.
Just imagine the frustration, then, of seeing millions of Americans, from ordinary citizens to self-appointed “militia” thugs and QAnon conspiracy nuts all the way up to the President of the United States himself, fail to make use of basic health care resources.
Nevertheless, the #FinishStrong campaign is relentlessly upbeat, forward-looking and optimistic about America’s ability to pull itself together in times of crisis.
The #FinishStrong ads have been running during the college and pro football games as the regular season ends and the playoffs begin, providing a high profile, all-American venue for Ford’s vision of a community-wide effort to save lives.
More to the point, Ford reportedly reallocated significant advertising dollars away from its top selling F-150 pickup truck in order to devote air time to #FinishStrong.
Other leading brands may want to think long and hard about making a similar commitment this winter.
As the COVID-19 death tally surges relentlessly past the 350,000 mark - yes, that’s about six Vietnams in less than one year - President Trump has dropped all pretense of responsibility for managing the COVID-19 outbreak, instead focusing all attention on a “bloodless coup” to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Ever since the first U.S. death from COVID-19 in March, the president has left U.S. businesses to struggle for reason in a sea of mass hysteria.
From top U.S. retailers to the National Football league, business leaders have made some attempts to steer the national conversation back onto the firm footing of science-based actions that protect the whole community. Clearly that patchwork approach has failed. With the #FinishStrong campaign, Ford has created a roadmap for other trusted household brands to coordinate and amplify their messaging on face masks.
Nothing will change the ant-mask mindset, but the combined might of Mr. Peanut, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger, the Aflac Duck, the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Geico gecko, the Michelin tire man, Flo from Progressive and the Most Interesting Man in the World could finally push conspiracy theories and phony patriotism out of the public conversation on COVID-19 prevention.
Image credit: Ford Media Center
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.